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Pravin Mahajan 'n D's brother sing together

Express News Service

Posted: Apr 30, 2007 at 0817 hrs IST

Sunday morning at Arthur Road Jail. Satsang: 1,500 prisoners performing yoga asanas, meditating and singing bhajans in the courtyard. Among them Pravin Mahajan and Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Iqbal Kaskar.

Viewed by jail officials as a novel way to counter factionism and violence among prisoners, the 10-day programme conducted by Art of Living as part of the ‘Prison Smart Programme’ ended with the satsang between 7 am and 9:30 am.

“These courses are conducted by Art of Living regularly for the inmates here. They serve to bring together rival factions and smooth out tension within the inmates. It becomes easier to deal with them after they have gone through such sessions,” said Jail Superintendent Swatee Sathe. “The turnout was great today. Pravin Mahajan and Iqbal Kaskar were among the 1,500 participants.”

Art of Living programme director Vikram Hazra said, “I had conducted a satsangh a year-and-half ago, and it was a big hit among the prisoners. Some of them had even started crying when we sang some old Hindi songs. They had been requesting for a repeat for some time now. They had yoga and meditation sessions, and then we all sang a mix of bhajans, Sufi songs, and some old movie ghazals.”

According to Art of Living instructors involved in the programme, the main idea behind the lessons are to de-stress the prisoners.

“The programme was developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, with the underlying principle that every culprit is himself a victim of his circumstances. Inside every culprit is a victim crying out for help. He should be healed by removing stress from his life. The elimination of stress is the main thrust behind the sessions, as it is the prime cause of crime,” said prison instructor Ami Patel.

Since 1992, more than 1.5 lakh inmates from prisons across the world have participated in the programme. One of the main features of the programme is the Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique that serves to relieve stress.

“I have participated in the programme four times now, and have even taken the advanced course. As a result, I have realised that my past actions were wrong. Sudarshan Kriya has especially helped me a lot,” said Radheshyam Shah, an accused in the Bilkis Bano case and currently lodged in the jail.

Another objective of the programme is the rehabilitation of prisoners into the mainstream.

“Most prisoners tell us that if we had taught them such lessons before, they would not have committed the crime in the first place. However, they say that they are glad they have gone through the course as it will help them in the future. We have helped lots of inmates from Tihar jail fighting stigma and getting over their past to set up businesses, once they were released,” said Hazra.

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